Politics and Society

#AnaKaman: How #MeToo Has Helped Egyptian and Middle Eastern Women Break The Silence

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#AnaKaman: How #MeToo Has Helped Egyptian and Middle Eastern Women Break The Silence

Photo courtesy of Time Magazine

”Ana Kaman” is what Azza Soliman, lawyer and founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance says in an interview with Times. She claims that the global #MeToo campaign -whose Egyptian equivalent is Ana Kaman- is “helping women break the silence about sexual harassment”.

Having risked her own safety and freedom to ensure that sexual harassment victims are not quietened, she states that this campaign has created a space for women in Egypt and the world to speak out. She insists on the importance of investing in this movement to ensure a valuable change with which women are encouraged to voice out their experiences.

Soliman explains that the protection of the women reporting sexual harassment should be governed by laws that safeguard the impartiality of the investigations.

Azza Soliman has currently had her assets frozen and has been banned from traveling; she was accused of receiving foreign funds aimed at harming the image of Egypt and the national interest of her country. The Amnesty lawyer was also viciously defamed by local media and accused of “encouraging women to know their rights and seek divorce.”

Being a part of Amnesty International’s Brave Campaign, she repaints the international #MeToo campaign with a color of her own. She refuses to give up the fight of defending and protecting human rights even though “the struggle…is long and tiring”.

Although #MeToo was sparked in Hollywood, the hashtag, which is meant at revealing how widespread harassment against women is, traveled the world and gained momentum in countries such as France, India and the UK before eventually landing in the Middle East.

Ana Kaman,  says Soleiman as she resiliently fights for her dream to build a fair and non-violent society.  She reiterates her constant support and belief in the power of people to make a change.

“I know I am not alone… We all have the same goal,” states Soliman.

Egypt is a country known for extremely rampant sexual harassment.  In the last few years, women have bravely taken on the task of sharing their experiences online with 2017 being a particularly interesting years for Egyptian women who have shared stories ranging from verbal harassment to accounts of sexual assaults as well as physical and emotional abuse through the trending hashtag ‘my first time to encounter sexual harassment was when.’ 

The hashtag revealed an epidemic of sexual harassment incidents in the Egyptian society and was followed by more men and women sharing more stories when #MeToo spread globally

Also last year, Egyptian Lawyer Nabih al-Wahsh was sentenced to three years in prison in addition to EGP 20,000 fine for inciting rape and sexual harassment after saying that raping girls who wear ripped jeans is a ‘national duty’ in a TV show.

The Egyptian constitution criminalizes sexual harassment and any form of sexual misconduct against women. However, women are often not encouraged to file complaints and are demanded to turn down their rights. Additionally, they often receive passive reactions from other people witnessing sexual harassment incidents.

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